Picture the scene. You’re a band starting out, with a decent bunch of songs together and an unquestionable desire to crack on and set the path for what comes next. The only issue - you can’t find a debut show to play, and you don’t want to put any old demo up online just to sway a promoter to add you as an opening name for whatever night could be offered.
“It was hard getting gigs,” recalls frontman Harrison Swann. “Promoters would ask ‘well, have you got anything to listen to?’ and we were like ‘ermm, no… fancy taking a chance on us?’”
So what happens next? For Talk Show, the answer was simple. “We thought, there’s no fucking hope - we’ll just put on our own show!” details Harrison. As debut shows go, you could say it was a bit of a success. “There was a moment when the door staff told us that they’d stopped letting people in because it was that busy. That was pretty fucking nuts.”
“You start thinking - oh shit, we’re about to play our first show and they’re not letting anyone else in the room and wait, hang on a minute… are we sure we want to do this?” cracks Harrison.
Whether they wanted to do this all or not was never an issue for Talk Show. Built around the friendship of Harrison and bassist George Sullivan, they trade off the sort of jolt-in-the-arm energy that would raise a sleeping giant from an almighty slumber. A bouncing almost feverish live presence has sent bolts across every stage they’ve stepped on, and that’s just the beginning.
“It’s been nuts,” admits Harrison, reflecting back over a span of months that has seen Talk Show become the sort-of must-see live act across London that usually comes before something massive kicks into gear. “We’re having the best time at the moment, doing what we’ve always wanted. It’s inspiring, even when we’re knackered - I remember playing Dot To Dot recently, and by the Sunday we were shattered. We were looking at each other, driving to give more and more, needing to go harder. You’re in the cycle of it all at the moment, always thinking - that gig was great, but the next show has to be better.”
‘Fast & Loud’ is a perfect introduction in that regards, boasting that “right we’ve arrived, this is us - take it or leave it” swagger as Harrison puts it to truly knock the doors off their hinges. “We’d been working away in the shadows up until that point,” elaborates Harrison, detailing the undeniable high standard they set themselves in every aspect of what they do as a band.
“We were just sat in basements for so long working hard and working out who we were and what we were going to do as a band. We were very clear that we were not going to put a single out until we can be the best version of ourselves at that point. That’s why we held off, because we had demos knocking about but we just thought what is the point of putting something out that we’re going to hate in a few months? That we feel is not going to be accurate or representative of us. It was literally about trying to be the best version of ourselves, and that’s how we approach everything.”
Harrison and George’s story started at university - that classic tale of bumping into each other in the corner of a house party set sparks to something completely unique and against the sounds they were hearing around them. “It was the classic: ‘oh, music’s shite at this party’, ‘yeah it is - what music do you like?’ and realising from there that we liked all the weird bands the other liked.”
After playing with several different bands, George’s housemate Tom Holmes began to play guitar with Harrison and George, before their search for a drummer found Chloe MacGregor as Harrison chatted about needing a drummer to complete their band outside their university’s library. “Chloe was sitting next to me and my mate and just said, ‘oh, I play drums’. Right wicked, rehearsal’s the next day, and we knew right away.”
From the get-go, it was clear something was clicking. Setting up shop in Peckham, that blend of boundary-pushing influences fed into their every move - but while most bands would throw themselves into shouting as loud as they can to get attention, Talk Show knew they needed to take the time to perfect what they wanted to achieve. The foundations were there, but time was needed to make sure they were right on course.
“We said from day one, me and George, that we weren’t going to put anything on Soundcloud,” lays out Harrison, “nothing is going online, absolutely nothing. We’re going to gig, and we’re going to perform, and that’s how people are going to know about us.”
It’s what led into those famed nights of self-run shows, bringing together a pocket of thrilling new bands to play in one space to constant packed out rooms. “The second or third one, when people had seen us before, it was absolutely packed, and everyone went berserk - moshing to the songs and that - and we were like what the fuck?!
“Those really, really, really helped form who we are as band. What’s become essential to how we approach anything now, we learnt it at those shows because we had to run the nights too. Be the people in charge of it all.”
It’s what sparked the attention of Felix White’s own YALA Records to put out ‘Fast & Loud’ - that unmistakable live power that immediately turns heads and makes you want to know more. It’s something Talk Show have in abundance, but it always helps when you get a helping hand from an unlikely source.
“It was pretty nuts how it all came about,” laughs Harrison, knowing the story he’s about to tell. “I basically have the same barber as Felix, and what happened was that Felix had taken a chance on us and offered us a slot at one of his YALA nights in May last year. In that same week he went to get his hair cut and our barber Danny had gone to him - oh, you need to check out this band they’re quality, and I’ve been cutting the frontman’s hair for years now and all this. Felix was like ‘oh shit, I’ve just offered these guys a gig - people are already talking about them, even my barber! They must be alright!’ and that’s the story now circulating!”
Blazing a trail from gig to gig, that diary that was once a nightmare to try and get shows with now is packed - thriving off the initial reaction to ‘Fast & Loud’ and now looking ahead to how they build things for what’s to come.
“It’s what we’ve always wanted,” he admits. “We’ve always wanted to have that full diary. In a weird way, it was kinda nice to be able to say that we can’t do a certain gig because we’re too busy at the moment. People have really connected with what we’re doing, and now I just want to see where we can take it all from here.”
“I want all the classic things - headline Glastonbury and all that, but I have specific ones too,” admits Harrison, allowing himself to dream further. “I want to play Jools Holland and do a session on KEXP; those are the things I grew up watching. We want to still be growing and pushing ourselves as musicians as performers, not settling or resting on what we’ve done so far. Getting big and buying a house in the south of France - I’m not interested in that."
Promising different sides of Talk Show to be revealed in the months to come, expect nothing short of something special. Fast & Loud, Measured & Powerful, Immediate & Now - Talk Show are bringing some new screens for the world to look through.
Taken from the September issue of Dork. Talk Show play Indie Banquet in Leeds on 17th August.
Featuring Muna, The Murder Capital, Shura, Ezra Furman, Spector and loads more.